Longline Pot Gear for the Gulf of Alaska Sable Fish IFQ Fishery: Frequently Asked Questions and Small Entity Compliance Guide

This is a summary of regulations governing the use of longline pot gear in the sablefish individual fishing quota (IFQ) fishery in the Gulf of Alaska (GOA). This Small Entity Compliance Guide satisfies the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 that requires a plain language guide to assist small entities. If you are required to comply with the regulations described in this document, you should consult and rely on the actual regulatory text in the Code of Federal Regulations. These regulations are available online at the electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) web site. See 50 CFR Part 679 for regulations governing the sablefish IFQ fisheries.

The regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations take precedence if a discrepancy occurs between them and the information in this guide.

General Information

1. Why is NMFS authorizing longline pot gear for the GOA Sablefish IFQ Fishery?

Beginning in 2009, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (Council) and NMFS received reports from fishermen that there have been numerous whale interactions with the sablefish IFQ fleet in the GOA. Sperm whale depredation on hook-and-line fishing gear is most common in the Central GOA, West Yakutat District, and Southeast Outside District sablefish areas and killer whale depredation is most common in the Western GOA and Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. While sperm whale depredation events are difficult to quantify on a per-vessel basis, fishery participants indicated that depredation continues to be a major cost to the sablefish IFQ fishery through reduced catch per unit effort and increased operating costs.

The Council and NMFS determined that authorizing longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery could reduce the adverse impacts of depredation for those vessel operators who choose to switch from hook-and-line gear. The Council recommended and NMFS implemented regulations to authorize, but not require, the use of longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery beginning with the 2017 fishing season.

2. Who can use longline pot gear?

Any vessel operator who desires to fish for sablefish IFQ with longline pot gear in the GOA IFQ regulatory areas may use longline pot gear if the vessel operator complies with all requirements specified in NMFS regulations and summarized in this document. See Q5 for a description of the GOA IFQ regulatory areas for sablefish.

3. How many vessels are affected by this rule?

It is not possible to estimate how many vessel operators will switch to longline pot gear from hook-and-line gear. The total number of vessels using longline pot gear likely will be limited by the costs of purchasing longline pot gear and vessel reconfiguration. NMFS anticipates that most operators in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery will continue to use hook-and-line gear.

The final rule authorizing longline pot gear implemented a number of management measures that were intended to minimize the impacts of vessels using longline pot gear on vessels that continue to use hook-and-line gear. These management measures specify that all vessels using longline pot gear must comply with:

  • pot tag requirements;
  • area-specific pot limits;
  • area-specific pot gear removal and redeployment requirements;
  • pot gear marking requirements;
  • logbook reporting requirements;
  • Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) requirements;
  • additional Prior Notice of Landing (PNOL) information submission requirements;
  • halibut retention requirement if anyone on board holds sufficient halibut IFQ.

These requirements are described in detail in the regulations at 50 CFR Part 679 and are summarized in this guide.

4. What vessel length categories are affected by this rule?

A vessel of any length class can use longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery. The Council and NMFS determined that the vessel owner was in the best position to decide if their vessel is capable of using longline pot gear. However, all sablefish IFQ is still subject to the length category requirements on the IFQ permit.

5. Where can I fish for sablefish IFQ with longline pot gear?

Vessel operators in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands sablefish regulatory areas have been able to use pot gear for sablefish during the entire fishing season since 2008 (see final rule). Beginning with the 2017 fishing season, longline pot gear is an allowable gear type in the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat, Central GOA, and Western GOA sablefish IFQ regulatory areas (see Figure 14 to Part 679).

6. What types of pot gear can I use in the sablefish IFQ fishery?

NMFS authorizes only longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery. Longline pot gear means a stationary, buoyed, and anchored line with two or more pots attached. Vessel operators in the Southeast Outside District, West Yakutat, Central Gulf, and Western Gulf sablefish IFQ regulatory areas are prohibited from using pot-and-line gear (i.e., single pot gear) to harvest sablefish IFQ. Vessel operators in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands sablefish IFQ regulatory areas may continue to use longline pot gear or pot-and-line gear.

Regulations specify that pots used in a longline pot or pot-and-line set for sablefish must comply with the following:

(i) Biodegradable panel. Each pot must be equipped with a biodegradable panel at least 18 inches (45.72 cm) in length that is parallel to, and within 6 inches (15.24 cm) of, the bottom of the pot, and that is sewn up with untreated cotton thread of no larger size than No. 30.

(ii) Tunnel opening. Each pot must be equipped with rigid tunnel openings that are no wider than 9 inches (22.86 cm) and no higher than 9 inches (22.86 cm), or soft tunnel openings with dimensions that are no wider than 9 inches (22.86 cm).

7. Can I use pot gear and hook-and-line (longline) gear on the same sablefish IFQ fishing trip?

Yes, a vessel operator may deploy pot gear and longline gear for sablefish IFQ during the same fishing trip. The vessel operator must comply with regulations at 50 CFR Part 679 applicable to all gear types deployed from the vessel.

Requirements for using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery

8. How do I register to use longline pot gear and request pot tags?

Vessel owners must register annually by completing and submitting the “IFQ Sablefish Longline Pot Gear: Vessel Registration and Request for Pot Gear Tags” form to NMFS, according to the instructions on the form. The form is located on the NMFS Alaska Region web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/ifq_ll_pot_reg_req.pdf.

A vessel owner must request and receive pot tags from NMFS. NMFS will register the number of tags requested for each GOA sablefish IFQ area, not to exceed the pot limits for each sablefish IFQ area (see Q16), and issue the tags to the vessel owner. Each pot tag will have a unique number and be a color specific to the GOA sablefish IFQ area in which it may be used (see Q11). The operator of the vessel is required to attach a pot tag that is registered to the vessel to each pot before leaving port.

Each vessel owner receiving pot tags is required to coordinate with the vessel operator to ensure the proper use of the pot tags. In cases where multiple sablefish IFQ permit holders fish from the same vessel, all IFQ holders and the vessel operator, or operators, will need to coordinate to ensure that no more pots are deployed from a vessel than the pot limit for a specific sablefish IFQ area (see Q16).

9. How much do the pot tags cost?

There is no fee to obtain IFQ sablefish pot gear tags from NMFS. The cost of these tags is included in the management, data collection and enforcement costs assessed in the IFQ cost recovery program.

10. What if I lose one or more pot gear tags?

Submit a completed “IFQ Sablefish Request for Replacement of Longline Pot Gear Tags” Form to NMFS, according to the instructions on the form. The form is located on the NMFS Alaska Region web site at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/ifqsablepotreplacement.pdf

11. What are the pot tag colors for each regulatory area?

Southeast Outside District - Pink
West Yakutat - Blue
Central GOA - Green
Western GOA - White

12. Can I have more than one tag on a pot if I am fishing in multiple areas?

Yes, a vessel operator may attach more than one area-specific tag to a pot if the vessel will be fishing in multiple areas. To be valid, a pot tag must be registered to the vessel, be the appropriate color for the area being fished (see 11), and be attached to a pot bridge or cross member such that the entire pot tag is visible and not obstructed. The vessel operator must comply with the area-specific pot limits (see 16).

13. What are the requirements for marking longline pot gear?

Each end of a set of longline pot gear must have attached a cluster of four or more marker buoys, a flag mounted on a pole, and a radar reflector. One hard buoy in the buoy cluster must be marked with the capital letters “LP” in addition to the Federal Fisheries Permit number of the vessel deploying the gear or the Alaska Department of Fish & Game vessel registration number. The markings must be at least 4 inches (10.16 cm) in height and 0.5 inch (1.27 cm) in width in a contrasting color visible above the water line and must be clearly visible.

14. Do vessels using longline pot gear have to use seabird avoidance gear, such as buoy bags and streamer lines?

No, vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery are not required to comply with seabird avoidance measures set forth in 50 CFR 679.24(e), such as using buoy bags and streamer lines. Vessel operators using hook-and-line gear to harvest sablefish IFQ, halibut IFQ, or halibut Community Development Quota (CDQ) must comply with seabird avoidance measures set forth in 50 CFR 679.24(e).

15. Are there any changes to observer coverage requirements for vessels using longline pot gear?

No, observer coverage requirements did not change for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery. See the North Pacific Observer Program Frequently Asked Questions at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/observer-prog-faq.pdf for more information on the observer coverage requirements for your vessel.

16. How many pots can I use?

A vessel operator is limited to deploying a specific number of pots in each area in which they will be fishing IFQ sablefish:

Southeast Outside District – 120 pots
West Yakutat – 120 pots
Central GOA – 300 pots
Western GOA - 300 pots

17. Is the pot limit per vessel or per IFQ permit holder?

The pot limit is per vessel.

18. Can multiple vessels use the same pots?

Yes. In order for vessels to share pots in the GOA during the fishing season, NMFS requires a vessel operator to 1) remove all longline pot gear registered to the vessel and used to fish sablefish IFQ from the fishing grounds, 2) return the gear to port, and 3) remove the pot tags that are registered to that vessel from each pot before the gear can be used on another vessel. The operator of the second vessel is required to attach a pot tag registered to his or her vessel to each pot before deploying the gear to fish for sablefish IFQ in the GOA.

19. Can I let my gear soak while I make a delivery?

Gear soaking is allowed for a limited period of time that is specific to each GOA sablefish IFQ area.

In the Southeast Outside District sablefish area, you may not soak gear while making a delivery. A catcher vessel operator must retrieve and remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish when the vessel makes an IFQ landing.

In the Southeast Outside District sablefish area, a catcher/processor must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.

In the West Yakutat and Central GOA sablefish areas, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within five days of deploying the gear.

In the Western GOA sablefish area, a vessel operator must redeploy or remove from the fishing grounds all longline pot gear that is assigned to the vessel and deployed to fish IFQ sablefish within seven days of deploying the gear.

20. Do I need to maintain a logbook even if my vessel is under 60 ft length overall?

Yes, NMFS requires all vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery to complete logbooks. NMFS uses the logbook to monitor fishing activities and enforce IFQ Program regulations including the management measures for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery.

The operator of a catcher vessel greater than 60 feet (18.3 m) length overall using hook-and- line gear in the sablefish or halibut IFQ fisheries is required to maintain a Daily Fishing Logbook (DFL). The operator of a catcher/processor using hook-and-line gear in the sablefish or halibut IFQ fisheries must use a combination of a Daily Cumulative Production Logbook (DCPL) and the NMFS electronic reporting system for landings (eLandings). For each day during a fishing trip, vessel operators are required to record in a DFL or DCPL information on deployed, retrieved, and lost gear and catch information per unit of gear deployed.

All vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery, including vessels less than 60 feet (18.3 m) length overall, must maintain a DFL (for catcher vessels) or DCPL (for catcher/processors) while fishing for sablefish IFQ.

21. What is a VMS and why do I need one to use longline pot gear?

A Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) monitors the location and movement of commercial fishing vessels in Federal fisheries in Alaska. NMFS uses VMS to monitor fishing activities and enforce IFQ Program regulations, including the management measures for vessels using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery.

NMFS requires all vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery to use a VMS while fishing for sablefish IFQ. Vessel operators using longline pot gear to fish sablefish IFQ in the GOA are required to contact NMFS at 1-800-304-4846 (option 1) to confirm that VMS transmissions are being received from the vessel. The vessel operator is required to receive a VMS confirmation number from NMFS at least 72 hours prior to the vessel’s first fishing trip of the year in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery. More information on VMS can be found at https://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/cwm.

22. What are the Prior Notice of Landing (PNOL) requirements for vessels using longline pot gear?

In addition to the providing the standard PNOL information for hook-and-line IFQ landings, vessel operators using longline pot gear in the GOA sablefish IFQ fishery must report on the PNOL the number of pots deployed, the number of pots lost (if applicable), and the number of pots left deployed on the fishing grounds.

23. Can I keep halibut caught in longline pot gear?

Vessel operators must retain legal size halibut (32 inches or greater) caught in longline pot gear while fishing for sablefish IFQ in the GOA if 1) the operator complies with all of the requirements for using longline pot gear in the GOA (i.e., pot tags, pot limits, gear removal and redeployment, gear marking, logbook reporting, VMS, and additional PNOL information), and 2) any IFQ permit holder on board the vessel has sufficient unused halibut IFQ for the IFQ regulatory area fished and IFQ vessel category. If halibut is discarded because it is less than legal size or no IFQ permit holders on board hold sufficient unused halibut IFQ, the halibut must be immediately released and returned to the sea with a minimum of injury.

For More Information Questions about NMFS Permits or Application Process
NMFS Restricted Access Management (RAM)
P.O. Box 21668
Juneau, AK 99802-1668
709 W. 9th Street, Room 713
1-800-304-4846 (press 2) or 907-586-7474,
Fax 907-586-7354
Email: ram.alaska@noaa.gov

Questions about the Regulatory Process
NOAA Fisheries (NMFS) Sustainable Fisheries Division
P.O. Box 21668
Juneau, AK 99802-1668
1-800-304-4846 (press 3) or 907-586-7228

Questions about Enforcement
NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Alaska Region
P.O. Box 21767
Juneau, AK 99802-1767
709 W. 9th Street, Room 831L 907-586-7225